The Octopus Chronicles — Version 5.0

If you search this blog for ‘octopus’, you will find 19 separate postings containing this favorite food of mine. I’ve eaten them with gusto all over the world, but it’s the quest for mastering how to cook it perfectly that has intensified for me during the last 11 years. I think that I have finally reached success in the past week, so let me explain the sequence of the “Octopus Chronicles”.

Octopus 1.0 – I learned from Chef Mike Anthony at Gramercy Tavern how to cook baby octopus (August, 2010)

Octopus 1.5 – Occasional efforts with mediocre results with 2-4 lb. octopus. (2011-18)

Octopus 2.0 – How to simmer the octopus in water at about 200º F. until tender (July, 2018)

Octopus 3.0 – I discover Jessie Schenker’s technique for poaching octopus and then marinating it overnight (March, 2020)

Octopus 4.0 – Harold McGee’s revelation on cooking octopus (June, 2020)

and now, last weekend:

Octopus 5.0 – Combine McGee’s poaching technique with Schenker’s marinating (March, 2021)

On Friday I purchased a 4.5 lb. Spanish octopus from New Deal Fish Market in East Cambridge. I followed McGee’s directions exactly, as before. It took 5 hours and 20 minutes for this marvelous mollusk to reach the proper stage of tenderness in my heavy Le Creuset Dutch oven.

Next, I prepared the marinade, with juices and zest from lemon, orange, and lime, added to a large stainless bowl of extra virgin olive oil. Also added rosemary branches, garlic, lots of Kosher salt, and dried, ground Calabrian pepper flakes. The octopus (still quite warm from the pot) was added to the marinade and placed in the refrigerator overnight to absorb the flavors in the bath.

The next day I removed two tentacles from the marinade, placed them on a very hot gas grill to get charred and crispy, and served them for lunch — adding only some sea salt, olive oil and a little Portuguese red wine vinegar — alongside a few pieces of my grilled sourdough bread. For the wine, I chose an already-opened 2019 Albahra, a Garnacha from the Canary Islands.

These pictures can’t quite capture the ideal texture and flavor, but for me it was the best octopus ever.

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